When I was in the 7th grade I was not yet a fully realized badass. Girls were suddenly very interesting, but they were not however interested in me. I realize, looking back now, that I had not yet grown into my suave and debonair personae which would provide me with smatter’d realtionship wonder-times in later years.
I had not learned how to navigate in the realm of interpersonal goings on between two human beings that begins with that look across a crowded room and the raised eyebrow, followed with Shakespearean heart-a-fluttering haiku language (“I noticed you looking my way – you into Tequila and stolen cars?”). Boom! Love-magic! Ultimately resulting in a co-habitative Nirvana that finally brings you and that special someone to a higher state of transcendental being. Where you really understand that other person in ways that you never thought possible (“I packed all your things and left them for you at Goodwill. I’ve run off to live in Chile with my karate instructor. He gets me.”).
7th grade girls were still dreaming about being Rapunzeled off with Dragon-slaying Princes with a flair for martial arts. I was learning a little something about Dragon-ass-kicking too – but not on anything that resembled a date. That was the year that my new friend Mike moved to town and helped me through the long semester of my discontent.
Mike was a genius who would go on to study nuclear physics or something smart and top-secret like that. He got accepted to college and rolled out when the rest of us were only starting our junior year of high school. The guy was bootlegging anime tapes and chasing college girls before any of the rest of us knew either of those things even existed.
Mike was what many would consider a nerd. He was, if I might be so bold, the King of Nerd Mountain! He wore that big brain like a badge of honor, and rightfully so, he’s probably saved all our asses in some war-game bullshit that none of us even have the security clearance to know about. He has reason to be proud, in the world of physics and computers the guy is a rockstar and from what I’ve heard lives with a Brazillian supermodel now in a hidden fortress below the streets of Dallas.
Why was Mike so crucial to me, a lost junior-badass in training, when I couldn’t talk even the 4H girls into giving up the digits? Because Mike helped me pass the time, in a land before whiskey took over that job, by introducing me to The Devil’s Game itself!
Dungeons & Dragons.Yes, Satan’s game – or so we were led to believe in my youth. A wild and dangerous ride which would lead to things like pot smoking and sacrificing woodchucks over altars so you might invoke the power of evil spirits like Azathoth and Carrot-Top to do your bidding.
Hadn’t I seen that movie with Tom Hanks where he dressed in women’s clothes to sneak in and out of his apartment? Hopelessly lost to the demonic mind-bending of those hexagonal dice and believing he was in love with a volleyball?
Didn’t I hear the stories about how that kid in the Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial had been co-erced to break dance with such fervor by the powers of a Beholder that he broke his neck?
Surely, this game of evil had been an instrumental tool of the Illuminati and had taken down many great men on their way up the power-ladder. Gary Hart and Donna Rice had been engaged in a particularly tricky campaign to re-take the Keep On The Borderlands when his Kennedy’esque political career had taken a tumble for the worst. He’d been a 9th Level Barbarian called Urgloth and she a 5th level Thief named Morganna Glittersnitch.
Let’s not even get into how many times Bill Clinton had to roll a savings throw against comeliness.
This game was ruining America back in those days. That was the popular word beneath the revival tent anyhow.
It wasn’t that way at all though. It had been started as a war strategy game by a nerd just like us, a pre-Zuckerberg wunderkind named Gary Gygax. He and his buddies had trouble getting girls to pay attention to them too and they read the Hobbit one too many times.
Thus, a nerd-revolution was born. Spawned from their inability to get laid they would launch a multi-billion dollar industry which would pack nerd’dom together in vast Valhalla like meeting halls where they would congregate with other nerds and would trade collectibles with one another. They would all lie about how much strange they were getting after the convention and THEY would raise together chalices of red Kool-aid, mixed far too strongly to resemble the blood of the fallen, and they would call to the fake gods of the Monster Manual to bless them one and all.
At the close of the 1980′s, Star Trek conventions, a hybridization of the above stated phenomenon, would be in full swing and nerd girls would begin to intermingle with their ranks – and finally, they’d get their shot at getting their Tri-Corders calibrated. This unsightly, but necessary, union would spawn many Klingon children and thus, the race of nerds would be saved to form important institutions like Comic-Con, Facebook, Michael Bay’s career, and Olivia Munn nudez.
Thank you Mike, Moritz, John, Chris, Lee, and Stringer for going on Dungeon-Crawls with me and for yelling, “I call MOST powerful magic item in the room!”, and for opening up the imagination of a young impressionable writer.
Oh, and for any girls reading this, I’m totally roguish’ly good looking now and I like to party, but I’m also responsible and sensitive and love kids, fondue, and your cat, Mr. Jinkles.
And DUNGEONS & DRAGONS did that for me too!
Billy Purgatory: I am the Devil Bird is Jesse James Freeman’s first novel. When he is not trying to convince women that Batman comics are cool he is drinking Tequila alone and working on a sequel, Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five.